Category Archives: Productivity Tools

Gamify Time Management

Sometimes life is too chaotic for one to make any sense. Although you are not over-worked or spending sleepless nights but still you find yourself in midst of a battlefield filled with conflicting priorities. Managing under such circumstances is not stress and sometimes can lead to conflict within team members as well.

Among the time management tools and concepts available to us, the urgent-important matrix is one of the most helpful. I had talked about it long ago in one of my blogs Urgent v/s Important Matrix , but am revising this today with more perspectives which I build with my team members who have started using this as a way to communicate and align to each other for creating maximum focus and momentum on goals that are important to them as well across the group

I would have not done a good job of providing some history around this simple tool , so for the inquisitive one here is the background on how this framework or concept came into being:

“This concept was popularised by Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but it was actually used by U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower long before Covey made it famous. That’s why this method is also often referred to as the Eisenhower Matrix. “


Multiple Figures

My objective of using the matrix is not only to organise self but also try to find management synergy across the teams and us this as a tool for alignment between various people trying to work in an agile and shared environment.

First figure explains principles of management around how to create Focus on urgent and important tasks and use power of delegation to deal with things that might not be important but are urgent. Delegation allows those tasks to be attended for as they are urgent but via a different resource pool for whom it becomes a focus a area. Imagine this as a connected web of focused tasks.

While I recommend to use power of negotiation to determine whether Important but rather not urgent task should have your mind-share or can it be moved to a zone of backlog which is not urgent and not important. In turn imply Kanban then to manage backlog.

At all times your focus area or rather urgent and important task list should be lean with a constant decision making process to shift them through various traversal paths as shown in last figure in my napkin notes. The idea is to keep the list lean , eliminate tasks by using power of negotiation and delegation. Create backlog and then manage it effectively to feed back your focus areas.

The second figure in my notes is kind of interesting illustration on how agile play into this and what velocity you should maintain at times deal with quadrants. Focus with high velocity to burn your urgent and important task. Most important to achieve business goals (Learn fast / fail fast). Negotiation will be a slow burn process whilst backlog tends to remain still. It is important to note that we should maintain high velocity for for urgent but not important tasks as they have a burden on your system and you would not want the focus areas to be impacted at any times by this quadrant. That is why power of delegation along with right skill sets tends to help a lot while we deal with this quadrant.

Hope you find these new explanations and illustrations useful while you manage your work or even for that matter personal life. I like to see this as gamification of work that adds a fun element when various team members talk this language and create a momentum that is required to execute business operations in a steadfast mode.

3P & Evernote

In one of my previous posts titled efficient collaboration , I had talked about using  Evernote and Dropbox for getting head start in agile collaboration.

I use a 3P model ( Progress , Priority , Problem ) limited to not more than 4 points per section as a note structure in Evernote for every team member to remain on top of their priorities and report effectively on the progress made on key items aligned towards over-all goal of the team on weekly basis. I have every team member create a note for themselves and report in this common format.This is shared across the team through a notebook using Evernote.

What this allows me to do is :

  • Creates transparency for all team members
  • Identify any prioritization conflicts across team resources
  • Quickly adjust our goals in-line with current targets
  • Collate and report to business in a concise manner
  • Attack and resolve problems to make way for progress and focus on the priorities

I try to keep things simple and frugal to extent possible. Hope folks reading this find it useful in managing their team interactions.

Efficient Collaboration

We all have come across various companies that use shared drives & managers deploying simple XL sheets to have team members update their task list. With growing mobility and dispersal of working groups across geographies , it becomes very inefficient to access most of our data across platforms and systems on daily basis.

Some obvious questions one would want to answer is…How-to….

  • Find all the information related to a specific task?
  • Increase transparency with group members
  • Effect prioritization and task tracking at minimum viable level without too much of tool hassle
  • Collaborate across dispersed locations & teams
  • How to store and share my favorite SQL query recipes across teams 🙂

I effectively manage above challenges by employing Evernote and Dropbox. Teams have share structures on Dropbox which enable seamless sharing of information across various devices and allows me to be in touch with my team members on shared documents which we are working on. Evernote allows me to maintain all notes related to common topics , SQL queries and 1×1 through shared notebook and I can find these with great features like tagging within Evernote.

If you want to be up and running in a manner that supports agile thinking , I would highly recommend using Evernote and Dropbox in tandem to help build efficient teams with improved collaboration.